Tri-series: Sri Lanka vs India Preview

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

We preview the first of match in this Sub-Continental Tri-Series which will see Sri Lanka and India slug it out in Colombo. 

Three of the four sub-continental teams will commence the seven-match Nidahas Trophy this month, with familiar foes in action for the series opener. Sri Lanka and India, indeed, are at it again.

The hosts are without key all-rounder Angelo Mathews once more, while the visitors have rested several big guns like Virat Kohli, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Jasprit Bumrah.

 Sri Lanka v India | Tuesday, 6 March | R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo | 15:30

To Win Match (Forecast odds)
Sri Lanka 19/10
Tie 35/1
India 4/10

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Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka have only beaten India four times in 14 attempts in the shortest format of the international game - and not even once in their last seven outings. This, then, is the islanders' chance to pounce on admittedly under-strength opposition. The hosts will be hard pressed to do so, regardless, at a venue that has brought them just two victories in 14 T20Is.

Fast bowlers Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal have been recalled, while wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella has been omitted in favour of Dhananjaya de Silva. Leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay has also been left out - and just two specialist spinners included in Akila Dananjaya and Amila Aponso. Plenty of responsibility is therefore on the shoulders of leg-spinning all-rounder Jeevan Mendis to deliver with bat and ball.

Sri Lanka were whitewashed three-nil in T20I cricket by India in December 2017 and, three months later, a hang of a lot will have to change if they are to reverse the slide. Mathew's absence is a massive blow, but leaves plenty of onus on Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal and Thisara Perera - in particular - to respond on cue.

Despite the depleted look of India's squad, the home side will still be heavily challenged - and successfully combating Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina and the rest of the batsmen is of chief concern. Raina and company were outstanding against South Africa last month - and have plenty of points to prove while Kohli and Dhoni rest.

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India
Now is certainly time for the likes of Jaydev Unadkat and Shardul Thakur to truly show their worth as India's back-up seamers, as Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar take a break. With the Indian Premier League nearing, there will be added impetus to their individual and collective agenda, as they target a sound run-in to that tournament.

Sri Lanka are relatively easily flustered if they don't get off to a good start with bat. India would have seen this many times and, again, will be eager to capitalise. Opening the bowling with a spinner, perhaps Axar Patel, might be in order for the low and slow conditions expected at the R Premadasa Stadium, where due will be a hampering factor for the team bowling second.

There will be a host of other fringe talent on show, too. Deepak Hooda, Mohammed Siraj, Rishabh Pant, Vijay Shankar and Washington Sundar have limited to no international experience between them, but require a young leader among them. That inspiration could be the 18-year-old Sundar, who faces a relatively defining series.

The Sri Lankans would do really well to tax the Indian youngsters, who in turn could show plenty of zeal in the face of adversity. The few veterans that have remained in the visitors' squad, meanwhile, simply have to lead by example in word and deed, so Siraj, Pant and company can be relieved of some pressure. However, if that pressure does mount, they'll have to step up.

Verdict: India 4/10 (Forecast odds)
Sharma's team are outright favourites for the entire series - and should set a dominant precedent in the first match. They'd do well to unearth one or two future stars, not just afford game time to a string of youngsters.

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Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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